Share this story

 | By Carol Wiget

Small steps to achieve holiness

As Lent ends, we begin to anticipate Easter, not for the joy of the Resurrection, but so we can relax on those sacrifices that we adopted on Ash Wednesday. We often use Lent as an opportunity to “reset” our faith practices and strive to grow in relationship to Christ, yet we can be quick to drop the habits we have been cultivating for the last 40 days. Lent interrupts our regular routine so that we can draw nearer to the Lord. He has placed in our hearts a deep desire to be with Him. This is everyone’s universal call to the holiness of sainthood.

The idea of sainthood can be daunting when we examine the lives and stories of those that have come before us. We see the transformation from sinner to saint in great and incredible ways that can seem unattainable for us. The “big-S” saints (the ones we know about) have set remarkable examples, but we often identify more as a sinner than as someone made for greatness. This way of thinking can make being a saint seem incredibly out of reach.

We believe that all those who enter the Kingdom of Heaven achieve sainthood. The “big-S” saints are the ones whose stories have been shared for all our Catholic lives. If we believe in the incredible mercy of God, the rest of the Communion of Saints is composed of far more “small-s” saints in Heaven whose stories remain untold. Heaven is not just for those who lived extraordinary lives by earthly standards, but it is also for those who lived ordinary lives with extraordinary love. Your life might be ordinary, but your love does not have to be.

Here is a brief list of little ways to live a life of extraordinary love to carry on our Lenten experience through the Easter season and into Ordinary Time:

Forgive without condition.

Forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciliation. You can forgive someone for what they have done to you and prevent them from hurting you again. Think of Christ’s words from the cross, “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they are doing.” Christ endured the worst suffering imaginable and transformed his suffering into a prayer of forgiveness. This is one of the most powerful ways we can be like Him.

Listen first.

Listen before you speak and try to place yourself in the other’s shoes, even if that means you are misunderstood or judged unfairly. Seek common ground. It is ok to disagree, but listen to hear not just to respond.

Choose silence.

Turn down the noise this world offers and opt for a drive without music or podcasts. Set aside some time without your phone to contemplate the things of God instead of the barrage of earthly things. It is amazing what God reveals to us in silence.

Pray for those who have hurt you each day.

You can also pick one person who seems to regularly get on your nerves and pray for them for nine days (we call that a novena). Remember, hurt people hurt people. Those who treat others poorly often need the most help.

Cultivate gratitude.

Give praise to God for even the smallest of good things that happen. There are so many all day that we often miss or take for granted! Take note of the weather or someone's smile. Truth, beauty, and goodness surround us, and they are gifts from a Good Father.

Offer up the bad.

It can feel annoying and dismissive to be told to “offer it up” when you experience real pain or discomfort, but we do not offer our suffering alone. Offering it up means giving your suffering to the Father with the Son who does this in His Passion on the Cross. Acknowledging your pain and uniting it to Christ provides a purpose for your suffering no matter how small. A practical way to offer up suffering is to endure it on behalf of something or someone: “I offer up this slow traffic for my mom.”

Be Holy around others.

We know the world needs our prayers, and adoration is a fountain of life for the faithful. Pray, pray, pray! We must not withdraw from the challenges of daily life into a sort of pietism (turning our faith rituals into idols), but we must be the face of Christ through presence to others, especially those who challenge and aggravate us.

I encourage you to think up your own list of ways to live an ordinary life full of extraordinary love. Each day is full of possibilities to grow in holiness. I hope that we both choose to grow often because I want to be a saint someday, and I want you to be one, too.

Carol Wiget is the Director of the Diocesan Office for Youth Ministry.